Getting an Angle on cancer
April 2012
by David Hutton  |  Email the author


GUILDFORD, U.K.—Parsortix Inc. has taken the wraps off a two-year research agreement with the Cancer Research UK-funded Paterson Institute for Cancer Research. According to Andrew Newland, CEO of Angle, which owns 90 percent of Parsortix, Parsortix will work with the Paterson Institute's Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology Group (CEP), which specializes in circulating tumor cells (CTCs). While terms of the agreement have not been released, Newland says all of the intellectual property and commercial value resulting from the work rests with Parsortix.
The Paterson Institute, which is part of the University of Manchester's cancer research unit, is renowned for its work on validating biomarkers based on CTCs, a key area of relevance for the treatment of cancer patients.  
According to Newland, the focus of the collaboration will include cancer patient blood studies to provide further independent confirmation of the performance of the Parsortix device and to optimize its design; development of research and clinical applications of the Parsortix device utilizing cancer biomarkers; evaluation of the Parsortix cassette CTC capture characteristics in relation to other CTC technology platforms; and in-depth comparative studies to support regulatory approval submissions by Parsortix for CE marking in Europe and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in the United States.  
"They will then be running multiple separations on cancer patients' blood and give us advice on how to improve the efficacy of what we are doing," Newland says. "They will then be doing comparative analysis comparing our technology against other existing technologies, including one product on the market and others that are being developed."
Newland says the application of CEP's expertise in biomarkers will be highly beneficial to facilitating the development of Parsortix's CTC capture device and taking it to market. The Parsortix CTC research at the Paterson Institute will be led by CEP director Prof. Caroline Dive and her deputy, Dr. Ged Brady.  
"The Parsortix cell-separation technology offers the potential for improved capture of CTCs from cancer patient blood, and since it does not rely on antibody affinity capture, has the potential to be both more effective and more widely applicable than existing techniques," says Dive. "We hope to be able to recover viable CTCs from the Parsortix device and be able to detect useful predictive and/or pharmacodynamic biomarkers, which will enable both an improvement in patient treatment and better targeted, more effective clinical trials of new cancer drugs in the future."
Newland adds that "a key to the Parsortix technology is it uses a counter diagnostic by capturing circulating tumor cells in cancer patients. The issue here is that the patient has a primary tumor—let's say a woman with breast cancer. That tumor will disseminate cancer cells into the patient's bloodstream."  
Newland adds that the circulating tumor cells are very rare, with approximately one blood cell in 1 billion healthy cells. Those cancer cells go around the body and they may lodge in another organ.  
"If you can capture those cells, you can learn quite a lot," he adds. "You can count the number of cells that a patient has and there is a prognostic result that can be obtained from that in terms of the patient's likely survival rate."  
Moreover, researchers also can determine what happens to the cells when the patient is being treated, detecting whether a form of treatment is effective.  
When a patient is in remission, whether a tumor has been removed or chemotherapy has been effective, the question becomes whether they are going to have a relapse. Often, when a relapse is detected, it can be too late for effective treatment.  
"We believe that a simple blood test taken on a regular basis can look for these circulating tumor cells," Newland says. "Ahead of any symptoms arising, they can potentially identify that a patient is at risk of a relapse or has just relapsed. Treatment can be deployed early and survival can be greatly enhanced."
The technology also can be effective for detecting various forms of cancer.
"The greatest thing about our separation technology—because it works based on the physical characteristics of the cancer cell that is larger and less compressible than the other cells in the blood—we do not have to use specific antibody capture technology," Newland explains. "It has the potential to capture all tumor cells."  
Newland adds that Parsortix "has a good prototype and we hope to optimize the separation technology so that it works well for research purposes."
Development of the technology could yield a revenue stream that could bring Parsortix an estimated $50 million a year. The goal is to have the research technology on the market by the end of the year.  
"We then want to move on into clinical use and we will need to get FDA approval before it can be used to treat patients," Newland says. "That is a goal the company would like to reach that by the end of 2013. To do that, we have to make sure that the device works consistently well. We haven't gotten there yet, and that's where Patterson's capabilities will make a big difference."  
Marketing the technology for clinical use could result in a bigger windfall for Parsortix, with potential revenue reaching $4 billion annually.  
Parsortix's deal with Paterson Institute is the second major research agreement signed by Angle recently.  
In December, the University of Surrey's oncology department agreed to carry out a structured investigation of the device's capability in capturing circulating tumor cells from cancer patient's blood.
Code: E041215

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